eeping a journal—it’s what therapists recommend to stay mindful, what helps productivity gurus achieve their goals, and how antsy teens get through high school (if you don’t believe us about this last one just watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower). But journaling is a great practice for anyone to start, including you.

Yes, you. Med school student, anime enthusiast, book reader, beekeeper, stranger on the other side of a screen. Journaling, while associated with images of sweater vests and hot cups of coffee, knows no limits. Maybe you’ve thought about journaling, maybe you haven’t. Maybe you know all about it from reading blogs, or maybe you’re still confused. Either way, it doesn’t matter. We’ll give you the lowdown on what journaling is all about. Then we’ll give you three reasons that will convince you to sit down at your desk and let a pen carry your thoughts away. Specifically, journaling allows you to:

  1. Archive your past
  2. Stay present in the present
  3. Envision your future

The lowdown on Journaling

Woman wearing a sweater and drinking a cup of coffee while she journals.
You may think that journaling is only for people with a coffee-drinking and sweater wearing aesthetic, but with so many types of journaling, you’re bound to find one that speaks to your hobbies and interests.

What you need to know

At its core, journaling is pretty simple—just taking the time to write down whatever thoughts come to your mind in a notebook or alternative place that you can come back to. There’s no wrong or right way to a journal, as it’s a practice that can differ a lot from person to person. Some people choose to write down their activities in a daily journal, whereas others prefer to sit down and write only when their creativity strikes. 

What people journal about can vary widely and is often reflective of their interests or goals. When reading about some of the several types of journals you can keep, think about which one would be the most beneficial for you.

Deep thought journal 🤔

➡️ Putting your thoughts and feelings down on the page in a deep thought journal can be a very effective way to manage stress and be more in tune with yourself

Daily log journal 🌞

➡️ Writing down you did and who you saw each day in a daily log is a great way to document your life experiences

Gratitude journal 🙏

➡️ Making a list of things you are grateful for every day is an effective strategy to help build mindfulness

Bullet journal 🎨

➡️ Perfect for creatives, bullet journals allow you to plan, organize or reflect with an emphasis on visual appeal

Food journal 🍽️

➡️ If you’re a foodie, keeping a journal about about different dishes you’ve made, ate, or want to try can be  very fulfilling

Fitness journal 🏋️

➡️ Fitness is all about progress, and there’s no better way to track the progress of your health and workouts than to write it all down

Pocket journal 👖

➡️ For those who like to capture their thoughts and ideas when their creativity hits, pocket journals will make sure nothing you think about while up and about will be forgotten before it hits the page

Goal journal ✅

➡️ Writing down your aspirations and goals can help hold yourself accountable in the long run by making sure you don’t skimp out on your future plans or aspirations

Where to keep your journal 

If you need some ideas about the medium to write in, some places to keep your journal include (but are certainly not limited to):

Pen and paper 📝

➡️ ie. A notebook from your local Target

The notes app on your phone📱

➡️ When creativity hits, just click on the go-to app on your phone where you keep all of life’s random reminders

Blogs 💻

➡️ Give your thoughts space to breathe on the world wide web by posting them to free sites like Medium, Wordpress, and Tumblr.

Word documents 📄

➡️ If you’re looking to minimize space and maximize clarity, then it’s time to start yet another “untitled document.” 

Past, present & future: Three reasons to pick up a pen and write

Archive your past

Everyone has a story. Why not write yours down? 

A typewriter writing the words "stories matter" on a blank white page.
Journaling your daily thoughts, experiences, and feelings allows you to capture the details of your life story that you will one day forget.

One of the long term advantages that journaling offers is the ability to look back on what you’ve written at an earlier date. For journals that track skills or goals, flipping through previous pages can reveal how much progress you’ve made since you’ve started writing about your journey. For those who keep deep-thought or daily log journals, looking back at what you’ve previously written can provide insight on what you were doing and how you felt at different stages of your life. 

By the time you reach adulthood, you’ve probably forgotten the details of your childhood, high school, and college eras. This, of course, is natural. But if you’re someone who wants to be able to return to these moments—either to appease nostalgia or to reflect—then you’re going to need to document them in some way, since your memory is limited and fallible. Whether you have a reason to document your life story or not, be sure to get it down on the page while you still can. Otherwise, the colorful specifics of your life will be lost in the past.

Regardless of the type journal you decide to keep, the practice of looking back on what you’ve written in the past gives you access to the events, memories, thoughts, and people that you will one day forget. It’s like having your very own time capsule, only this one spills all the secret drama and keeps on growing. 

Stay present in the present

Releasing the thoughts and stressors that overwhelm your mind onto the page will give you the headspace to pay attention to the people and world around you.

Have an excess amount of thoughts? Get overwhelmed easily? Journaling can help release any anxieties that might be floating around in your head by giving them a place to exist outside of it—on the page. When your mind is less consumed by stress and anxious thoughts, you can focus more on the things and people around you that really matter. Plus, taking the time to write out what’s bothering you can help you make sense of them. In this way, journaling can serve as a form of therapy and make you feel like your mind is more clear after doing it.

Making a point to write down a few things you are grateful for every day—what some turn into a gratitude journal—will draw your attention to what you are particularly thankful for on that day and will create positivity. Doing this forces you to look around at your life and what is happening in it. In other words, it brings your mind back to reality, as you not only have to reflect about what happened that day, but the things that had an impact on you.

Envision your future

Journaling allows you to reflect on where you’ve been and to stay grounded in the present, but it can also help you determine where you’re going. 

A list of goals for 2021 written on a piece of paper that is lying on a desk next to a journal and a fountain pen.
Feel like your life is slipping away from you? Writing down your goals for the future can help you take the necessary steps to accomplish your aspirations. 

It can be easy for it to feel like your life is taking control over you instead of you taking control over your life. However, with some goal setting, planning, and thinking about the future you want, things can seem more manageable.

Journaling is a practical way to organize all of thoughts about the future—who you want to be, where you want to end up, how you want to live, etc. Moreover, it can help you accomplish the goals you have set by drawing your attention to them. Writing something down automatically makes it exist, as it is no longer just an idea swimming around in your brain, and acknowledging that it exists is acknowledging that it is possible for you to obtain it. 

Keeping a journal can also help you break down your goals into a series of smaller steps that will help you achieve them. While you can’t plan out your whole life—in the end, you really never know what’s going to happen—you can create a plan for how you would like to proceed forward, which will help make your goals happen. 

By now, hopefully you’ve thought of an area in your life that can be improved—even if just a little—by keeping a journal. Now it’s time to start! Try implementing the practice of journaling in your life on a weekly or daily basis. Before you know it, you’ll have hundreds of pages filled. So go ahead, click that pen and begin writing.

Apr 1, 2021